May 2019 - The Gallop: The Horse Park at Woodside
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 30 April 2019 23:17
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Nearing 40, the non-profit venue looks & functions fabulously for a range of equestrian pursuits & pleasures.

by Kim F. Miller

It was just your average Saturday at The Horse Park at Woodside in mid-April. Dressage and hunter/jumper schooling shows were underway, the Mid-Cal Pony Club Region was in rally mode and a Woodside Vaulter held an exalted pose atop a handsome steed in one of two rings footed specifically for that discipline.

Some of the 272-acre property’s 120 lucky boarders schooled their horses, a visitor set out on one of several trails weaving through the Ian Stark-designed international cross-country course, while a resident blue heron surveyed the scene. Poppies popped orange across vibrant green expanses and blue lupin bloomed as riders and horses went happily about their business.

On the cusp of its 40th year, The Horse Park at Woodside will get much busier this month and on through the fall. That’s exactly to plan. Because the land, also known as Guernsey Field, was leased from Stanford University in 1981 to facilitate cross-country training for horses and riders, The Horse Park has evolved to embrace multiple disciplines and provide access to the equestrian lifestyle.

The Horse Park’s Katie Trafton & Tom Livermore enjoy the views from a new gathering space near the show office.

The Horse Park at Woodside, a 501c3 non-profit, has a mission to “provide opportunities for educational, recreational and competitive activities in a variety of equestrian disciplines that encourage the growth and development of youth and adults.” Broad access to land suitable and dedicated to equestrian use is key to fulfilling that mission, as is improving the caliber of events and filling the venue’s calendar to an appropriate extent. Land stewardship is another part of the mission, hence the heron and wildflowers.

Implementing the mission has always included improvements to the facility. That effort intensified a few years ago when San Francisco bid to host the 2024 Olympics, with The Horse Park potentially as the proposed equestrian venue. San Francisco lost to Paris as host, but the process planted big ideas in the minds of the Park’s guiding leaders, explains Tom Livermore, The Horse Park Board of Governors Co-President.

Efforts to maximize The Horse Park’s convenient San Francisco Peninsula location and natural amenities are underway on several levels. Becoming “a world class equestrian venue on the West Coast” is the goal, Tom explains. Many would say it’s been that for some time, but big and small infrastructure improvements, equipment investments and new management approaches to some operations raise the bar significantly.

New show stabling overlooking the Grand Prix Arena.

Improvements

New portable show stabling on the hillside overlooking the Grand Prix arena is a gleaming symbol of current upgrades. Funded by tax-deductible donations, more upgraded show stabling will be installed soon. The Horse Park owns the new stalls, creating rental income to help support operations and ongoing upgrades.

As a long-time show venue for disciplines ranging from jumping and reining to dressage and polo, the Horse Park has always prioritized footing. “We’ve had the materials,” Tom explains. “It was a matter of having the right grooming equipment and using it correctly.” They now have the drags and savvy to set and maintain each ring for its intended use for schooling and shows. That’s no easy feat when each discipline has strict riding surface requirements: a thick layer of sand for the reiners, geotextile blends for the jumpers, GGT footing for the vaulters, tighter footing for polo, etc…

Beyond the carefully groomed arenas, the cross-country track is now tended by an “Agrivator.” The tines on this device reach down a few inches below the surface to vibrate the ground while allowing the grass to continue to grow on the tracks, explains Katie Trafton, The Horse Park’s Manager of Support Services. This gives the track more cushion without reducing traction.

A Woodside vaulter in action.

The whole course has undergone various improvements, designed by Ian Stark, to make it “more interesting and take more advantage of the differing terrains,” explains Tom.

A new space near the horse show office is an ideal gathering spot. Its central location and sweeping view of the Four Winds Arena and Annex and much of the cross-country course make it perfect for vendors, exhibitors, spectators and parties.

Less visible improvements are equally important. Doubling the venue’s water capacity, a new electrical transformer and two new restroom trailers add functionality and pleasantries for all members and guests. Show organizers can now choose their own food concessionaires, including The Horse Park’s long-standing provider.   

The Ian Stark-designed cross-country course has undergone upgrades to maximize interesting terrain.

Activities at The Horse Park

The Horse Park offers shows in multiple disciplines, including dressage, eventing, hunter/jumper and reining.

As home base for the 50-member Portola Valley Pony Club, The Horse Park hosts competitive and educational events year-round, for PVPC and regional Pony Club events. Along with vaulting competitions, ranch versatility and an “Extreme Cowboy” obstacle course race help fulfill the Park’s mission to facilitate all kinds of equestrian action.

The Horse Park also organizes its own schooling shows, managed by Katie and a team of dedicated and much-appreciated volunteers. More clinics are on the agenda.

Although The Horse Park is capable of hosting up to 400 visiting horses, the annual calendar is almost full. Fall and spring are spectacular in the still quaint Woodside area half-an-hour south of San Francisco. And summer heat is usually made pleasantly manageable by breezes and afternoon fog that rolls over the Skyline hills between Woodside and the Northern California coast.

A member of The Horse Park hits the expansive trail system that weaves throughout the 272-acre property.

Along with event revenue and boarding, most of The Horse Park’s improvements are funded by its annual membership program and donations from the community. There are multiple membership options to provide access to riding in the arenas and on the trails at The Horse Park. Cross-country schooling is also available, as is dog walking access during specified times.

Despite The Horse Park’s longevity and loveliness, there are still people who drive by the entrance on Sand Hill Road, just a few minutes off the 280 Freeway, with no idea what goes on there. Educating the community on The Horse Park’s value remains a priority.
A Board of Governors member for several years, Tom says, “We really want to see it flourish and grow, which it has.” The Horse Park is committed to continuing its journey of becoming a premier equestrian facility and a part of the local community.

The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The Horse Park at Woodside Resident Trainers


The Horse Park is home to 120 boarded horses, 100 in stalls and 20 in pastures. Stall boarders must be part of a resident trainer’s program. They are:

•    Aspen Ridge Stables – William Saavedra
•    B.O.K. Ranch – Tish Dipman
•    Core Equestrian - Christina Christensen
•    Heather Hill Riding Center – Laura Stevens
•    Tayside Sport Horses – John Robertson
•    Three Bay Farms – Liz Hall
•    West Coast Performance Horses – Jason Attard
•    Woodside Vaulters – Krista Mack